Truck Driving Instructor Speaks Out About Training Concerns

by Jana Ritter - Published: 9/30/2014

It says a lot that the Teamsters and Safety Advocate groups were able to file a federal suit against the FMCSA for failing to improve the industry’s training requirements, but it says a lot more when the very people doing the training for major trucking companies are voicing their concerns as well.

Training Requirements

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We spoke to a senior trainer and long time veteran of the industry who, for obvious reasons, wishes to remain anonymous and so we’re calling him “Bill”. Bill not only unveiled a long list of issues that he, his colleagues and a number of his students have, but he also says that his efforts to change things for the better are usually shut down.

“Since my first class came through the terminal to start field training last June, I have had one student after another complain about how the academy does the training here and the lack of actual training that they feel that they are getting”, Bill says.He further explains that the students mainly complain that they aren’t given a sufficient amount of time to learn crucial skills training such as backing up the tractor trailer and techniques such as the 90 degree alley dock, offset backing or straight line or blind and sight side parallel parking.

Although the academy training is followed by actual road training, (which usually involves spending three or four days spent with field instructors driving in the real world), Bill says there is a real danger in putting students out on public roads with virtually no real driving time at all. Adding to the risk is the fact that other motorists have no way of differentiating the training trucks from the experienced truck drivers and don’t know to take extra precaution. Bill also says that many trainees are get out on the road for the first time and are simply scared of the tractor-trailer being plunked into real traffic without enough training to feel comfortable maneuvering it. “It’s usually this first experience on the public road that trainees realize they have no business being there. They realize the huge difference between the controlled circumstances on the closed training range and the unpredictable dangers of the real world,” he explains.

While there are many other training instructors who share his concerns, Bill says that he’s one of the few who has tried to do something about it and unfortunately his supervisors usually just tell him to leave it alone. He isn’t planning to leave it alone until the federal laws are updated with mandatory training requirements set in place for all states across the board and he also says that there needs to be a way of ensuring that all companies adhere to these requirements. The bottom line is that students need more training hours to feel confident and safe to do their job.

“I do not feel that there is any training program anywhere, with any company that can be done in less than 8 to 10 weeks and sufficiently teach a new driver enough of the basics to safely operate a tractor trailer on public roads safely. Truck driving is a major responsibility and drivers must be confident enough to be able to do their job with out the added stress of having to second guess every move they make and wondering if they did the right thing with any given situation.”